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Did Kyle Orton Take Advantage of the Cowboys?

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Kyle Orton’s contract was originally a 3-year-contract at $3.5 million per season. The Cowboys played with the money, agreeing to give him about $5.9 million the first year - $5 million of which was a signing bonus. They paid him only $1.35 million last year. And then he was going to get the other $3.25 million this year.

Essentially, it was a 3 year deal with 2/3rds of the money paid in the first 2 years and the remaining 3rd paid in the last year.

In addition to the Original Structure, which pushed some of the Salary of the first two years into the Salary CAP of this coming season, the Cowboys restructured Orton’s deal twice to get more room under the Salary CAP.

In November 2012 the Cowboys asked Orton to restructure his deal because they were out of Salary CAP space, and they needed to sign some new defensive players due to injury. In what was a pure paperwork accounting ploy, they extended his contract to 5 years, but the last two years were automatically voided after this coming season.

Technically, the Cowboys added two more years of salary at $3.5 million per year - for a total 5 year deal at $17.5 million. But since the last two years automatically voided after the coming season, it was really still a 3 year deal at $10.5 million.

So, Orton was still on a 3 year deal, but for Salary CAP purposes, his bonus, which had been charged to the Salary CAP at $1.667 million per year, was now spread over 5 years at $1 million per year. The Cowboys used the extra $667K to sign some defensive players for Rob Ryan's defense. (They did the same deal with Doug Free in order to spread his bonuses over 5 years instead of the 3 years remaining on his 2011 contract - with two voidable years after next season at $8 million per season.)

In the original deal, Orton agreed to be paid $3.5 million per year. He collected $7.25 million over two years, which is in line with his original deal. The purpose of how the Cowboys structured his contract was to help them on the Salary CAP because, as we all know, they were really having Salary CAP issues the last two seasons.

Last season, the Cowboys once again asked Orton to take "Bonus" money up front in lieu of salary, and spread the savings over 4 years remaining on his bogus five-year-deal.

The supposed $3.4 million Orton might have had to pay back was ALL money he allowed the Cowboys to push into later years for Salary CAP reasons. But from an original agreement perspective, Orton got paid 2/3rds of the money for 2/3rds of his original 3 year deal.

It would have been unjust for the Cowboys to attempt to collect that Bonus money back, since the only reason it has not already been charged to the CAP was to allow the Cowboys to overspend the last two years. The Cowboys did the right thing by dropping what was essentially a bogus claim to getting money paid back to them. Technically, they had a legal right to it, but morally, it wasn't right.

THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT:

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If the Cowboys had pursued getting paid back the money, when the only reason they had a legal right to it was because the player agreed to help them out on the salary CAP by the structure of the contract, it would have crippled them in all their future negotiations with other players on restructuring contracts to get Salary CAP relief.

Based on the Orton example, other players and their agents would have NO REASON to agree to restructure their salaries into bonuses spread out over several seasons. If players believed the Cowboys would pull a bait and switch by trying to get paid back for money the players already got paid, they would have to protect themselves from the Cowboys by keeping the money as salary to prohibit the Cowboys having a legal right to try to collect the money. Players would refuse to restructure.

That would severely hurt the Cowboys, and cause them not to have the ability to play around with the Salary CAP in the future. While sports reporters are mentally retarded when it comes to understanding math and accounting, you can be very sure that agents and players would notice that the Cowboys didn't treat Orton fairly.

Free Agents would refuse to sign with the Cowboys. Rookies would insist on higher salaries and lower signing bonuses. Drafted players would refuse to resign with them after their rookie contracts expired. And the Cowboys would become pariahs among NFL player agents. In short, it would have destroyed the Cowboys if they went after Orton's money - money that did not morally belong to them.

Stephen Jones and the Cowboys front office were smart enough not to do that.

The "stand-off" never became adversarial between the Cowboys and Orton. Simply put, the Cowboys never intended to go after that money because it would have hurt them more than Orton. They were just trying to get Orton to play this year because they genuinely believed the team would be better with him backing up Romo. Orton genuinely wanted to retire.

The "stand-off" was a media generated myth. And the supposed leverage the Cowboys had? Also a myth. The only reason it was reported that way is because most sports reporters are idiots when it comes to understanding contracts.

CONCLUSION

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Orton DID NOT screw over the Cowboys. He was paid 2/3rds of his contract value for 2/3rds of the work. Players get cut every year prior to the end of their contracts. And players retire every year prior to the end of their contracts.

Orton did nothing wrong by retiring a year early. And the Cowboys did nothing wrong by giving him time to change his mind. This was an amicable parting of the ways, and you shouldn't believe that either the Cowboys or Orton did anything wrong. Both parties handled themselves properly.

When Orton informed the Cowboys of his intentions to retire back in March, it allowed them to go out and sign two backup quarterbacks with NFL starting experience – Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie. The Cowboys will actually save money on the salary CAP by Orton’s retirement, since the price of Weeden and Hanie combined is less than the cost of Orton. Orton treated the Cowboys respectfully. He forfeits his claim on the final 1/3 of the money and the Cowboys don’t owe him anything more. He owes them nothing either.

Good Luck to Orton in his post-NFL life, and Go Cowboys.



Engineer, writer and private NFL analyst, he began developing his own statistical analysis program in 1998 to measure and predict the performance of NFL teams. Scott is also a self-taught expert on the NFL salary CAP, analyzing how Cowboys contracts affect the team this year and in future seasons. Mr. Harris' skill lies in digging inside the numbers to explain which statistical measurements matter, and which do not. Mr. Harris developed his skill at writing for his college newspaper, and had his own politically oriented blog for several years. A passionate fan of the Cowboys, Scott uses his skill with numbers and writing to provide a unique viewpoint of the Cowboys and the NFL as a whole. He is a native of the DFW metroplex and currently resides in Golden, Colorado designing environmental controls systems for data centers, high rise buildings, college campuses, and government bases.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agency: Week One Recap

Jess Haynie

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Tavon Austin

It's been just a week since NFL free agents could begin negotiating with other teams, but it feels like a lifetime for anxious Cowboys fans. Dallas' seemingly passive approach to 2019 free agency has left many disappointed. Still, there are some moves to recap.

As has become their strategy in recent years, the Cowboys have focused on filling up their depth chart and trying to avoid any glaring holes prior to next month's draft. They've re-signed several backups and added at least one likely rotation player.

It's still far too early to judge Dallas' activity. Comparing the 2019 roster to last year will depend heavily on the draft, growth from current players, and other factors. But with the "second wave" of free agency upon us, it's a good time to look at who's come, gone, and stuck around so far.

New Arrivals

  • TE Jason Witten (unretired)
  • TE Codey McElroy (Rams)
  • DT Christian Covington (Texans)

The biggest addition so far this offseason wasn't even a free agent, at least not in the purest sense of the term. Jason Witten's surprising return from retirement helped shore up one of Dallas' biggest needs, though it may not preclude them from drafting a tight end high in April.

Also at tight end, Dallas signed developmental project Codey McElroy. His experience is in baseball and basketball, having played just one year of college football. But at 6'6'" and 255 lbs., and having spent last year working with the Rams, the Cowboys must see something they're intrigued by.

Last week Dallas signed Christian Covington, who had 3.5 sacks for Houston in 2018 playing as a 3-4 defensive end. He should move to DT in the Cowboys' scheme and should be a solid addition to their rotation.

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agency: Week One Recap

Former Cowboys WR Cole Beasley, now with the Buffalo Bills. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Departures

  • WR Cole Beasley (Bills)
  • TE Geoff Swaim (Jaguars)
  • DL David Irving (shenanigans)
  • LB Damien Wilson (Chiefs)

Beasley is heading to Buffalo on a four-year, $29 million deal. It appeared the relationship soured between Cole and Dallas over his playing time last year, and clearly the Cowboys didn't fight hard to keep him.

Damien Wilson followed Anthony Hitchens to Kansas City to help round out their linebacker corps. Once it was announced that Dallas was hanging on to Sean Lee in 2019, it was fairly certain that Wilson wouldn't be back.

Also not expected back was TE Geoff Swaim, who signed with Jacksonville. Even before Witten came back, Dallas appeared likely to stick with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz for returning talent and then add an upgrade via free agency or the draft.

While still a free agent, nobody expects David Irving back in Dallas or even the NFL after recent activities. Irving appears focused on a Hollywood career and advocating for medical marijuana use at this point.

Keepers

  • FB Jamize Olawale
  • WR Tavon Austin
  • WR Allen Hurns (team option)
  • OT Cam Fleming
  • G/C Joe Looney (team option)
  • DE DeMarcus Lawrence (franchise tag)
  • DT Daniel Ross (ERFA)
  • LB Justin March-Lillard
  • S Darian Thompson

While Dallas put the franchise tag on prized pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, his return in 2019 is far from settled. Lawrence has previously sworn he wouldn't play under a second franchise tag this year, and last we heard the two sides are far apart on a long-term deal. Could a holdout be on the horizon?

The Cowboys doubled-down on WR depth by re-signing Tavon Austin and exercising their team option on Allen Hurns' contract. Both are able to play out of the slot, meaning we could see more of a rotation approach to replacing Cole Beasley next year.

Dallas also re-signed fullback Jamize Olawale, which was a surprise given his low usage rate last year. Perhaps the change to Kellen Moore at offensive coordinator was behind this one, hoping to take better advantage of Olawale's receiving skills going forward.

Joe Looney and Cam Fleming will also be back as valuable backups on the offensive line. Looney started 16 games last year at center and also helps at guard, while Fleming will be the swing tackle once again for his second season in Dallas.

On defense, Dallas kept Daniel Ross in their DT rotation after solid performance in 2018. Justin March-Lillard return at linebacker, particularly for his value on special teams. And Darian Thompson, a former third-round pick by the Giants, is back as an ongoing developmental player.

~ ~ ~

Today we're already seeing a flourish of free agent activity in Dallas. Reports this morning have them meeting with WR Randall Cobb and S Clayton Geathers, and we haven't even had lunch yet.

If this is any indication, next week's recap may have a lot more to discuss.



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Dallas Cowboys

REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Clayton Geathers Today

Jess Haynie

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REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Clayton Geathers Today

The Cowboys appear to be waking up in 2019 free agency. After a report earlier that they're meeting with WR Randall Cobb, now they're also visiting with Safety Clayton Geathers. He's spent the last four years with the Indianapolis Colts and was a starter and team captain in 2018.

Geathers missed four games last season with a neck injury but still had 89 tackles on the year. He has yet to get an interception since entering the league in 2015, but hasn't been a full-time starter for much of that time.

Field Yates on Twitter

Free agent S Clayton Geathers is visiting the Cowboys today, per source. He was a team captain for the Colts last season, starting 12 games and recording 89 tackles.

At 6'2" and 220 lbs., Geathers is every bit of a strong safety. He is likely being considered to compete with Jeff Heath for the starting role and otherwise provide depth.

Clayton's rookie contract expired this year, making him available as a free agent. He turns 27 in June and was a fourth-round pick in 2015.

This is still just a visit and a signing is hardly guaranteed. But at the least, the Cowboys seem to be becoming far more active in this second wave of free agency.



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Dallas Cowboys

REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent WR Randall Cobb Today

Jess Haynie

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Randall Cobb

The Dallas Cowboys are hosting free agent Receiver Randall Cobb today at The Star, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Cobb has spent all eight of his NFL season thus far with the Green Bay Packers.

After losing Cole Beasley to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, and with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup entrenched as starters, Dallas must be considering Cobb to help them at slot receiver.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys are hosting free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb at The Star today, according to a source. With the departure of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys are looking for help at slot receiver and Cobb can also play on the outside. In eight years in Green Bay, he had 470 catches...

This move is a bit surprising after Dallas chose to keep both Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns from last year. Both veterans are capable of playing out of the slot, as is Amari Cooper.

Cobb, however, may bring more upside. He's struggled injuries lately but was a key part of the Packers' offense for several years. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2014 with nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Turning 29 in August, Randall's contract expired in Green Bay and he remains a free agent. The Cowboys are likely hoping to replace Cole Beasley's skill set at a discounted price.

It's been a slow free agency period for Dallas thus far, and Randall Cobb wouldn't be a glamorous addition. However, any activity would make anxious Cowboys fans happy at this point.



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